the power of music

A young man or woman goes to the music store.
Or the pawn shop.
They buy a beat up guitar.
A keyboard.
Some blank music sheets.
Or a note pad and a number 2 pencil.
They sit in their basement with their headphones. Fumbling to play along to their favorite artist.
Or, on the side of a lazy river, scribbling the lyrics to their someday breakout hit.

They dream.

Do they dream about fame? And fortune? Thousands of screaming fans clamoring for their attention, in desperate need to hear their favorite song? Isn’t that the goal, after all? I would imagine it is.

But I wonder if an aspiring artist knows that, despite their level of achieved success, they have the potential to make someone’s day, even change their life by sharing a piece of themselves with us.

Did Bruce Springsteen know that a 47 year old man would immediately go to his music while driving 2 hours on a cold December night, tears streaming down his face, to see his father before he draws his last breath?

Did Journey know that their music would make millions of 80’s kids remember sweaty fumblings in the back seat of sedans and slow dances with their High School Sweetheart?

Did Van Morrison know that Into the Mystic would always remind me of that one night, sitting oceanside, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, drinking bourbon in beach chairs with a dear friend that has since died?

Did Dawes know that in his song A little bit of everything he would perfectly illustrate, as if on a design board, how to approach life when you don’t know how many days you have to live?

Did Michael Franti know that he would inspire my blog when he sang Good to be alive today? The song that slapped me in the face and told me that it is so simple, and necessary that I spend each day trying to make the world a better place and just be glad to be ALIVE.

So many songs.
So many associations.
So many memories.
So many things to so many people.
So many powerful emotions. Smiles of nostalgia. Tears of angst. Pains of heartache, sadness and loss. Euphoria and joy. The urge to play air guitar or pound the steering wheel to your favorite drum solo. The feeling that you have been where the artist has.

I have listened to thousands of songs in my life. There are millions of songs that I still want to hear. Songs that I know could speak to me. That will make me feel something, experience something powerful. I can only hope that when I hear them, I have a takeaway. Something that I can relate to. A fresh perspective on a old subject, a new spark to light the candle of another fond yet dormant memory.

Here’s to the person out there, just getting started, setting out on your musical journey and hoping for all of the typical trappings of success. May they know that success can me measured in so many ways.

Always keep in the back of your mind that you may change just one life with your efforts.


Service

In my last post I discussed the virtue of humility. It was a simple post, a suggestion to mankind in general and a reminder to myself in particular to think of self less and others, or the big picture in general, a little more. In the interest of brevity I touched on, but was unable to dedicate enough time to the greatest benefit of the humble lifestyle. Service to others.

When you are ill, even if you are fortunate enough to have a strong circle of support in the form of family and friends, you often become the focus of extra, sometimes unwanted attention. As well-intentioned as the constant inquiries into your health status can be, it can have a negative effect. I have the occasional day that I feel “normal” (an entirely different subject for another day) and am going about my day and the first person I encounter hits me with a “how are you feeling?” and boom, there it is, the reminder that they know me as the sick guy. It feels weird, perhaps ungrateful even, to put this to words because it is a beautiful thing that people are concerned about me enough to ask.

But it still bothers me.

So I deflect. I play it down. Knowing that at least half of the people who ask really don’t want to know, but feel negligent by not asking, I keep it short. Often, I just say “today is a good day.”
I can’t go wrong with that because I do have more good days than bad, and I truly believe that any day looking down at the dirt, not up, is a good day.

The other thing I do is spend as much available resources on others. I work my Masonic charities. It is the greatest kind of giving, it is anonymous. Scrambling behind the scenes to find a prom dress for a HS senior who can’t afford one, glasses for a child whose family has no insurance, a scholarship for a local youth to buy books is truly food for the soul and I am grateful to be in a position to help.

I volunteer at the local food pantry. One day there and it is immediately evident that my life could definitely be worse. All of our lives could.

On a smaller but significant note, I make a point to call and visit people. People I know very well and people that I know enough to call and say hi. The funny thing is that everyone that I call or visit gives me some inclination that they needed it, confirming my favorite quote…

I have spoken to so many people that needed to unburden themselves and I found myself in a position to do something, even if all they needed was for someone to listen to them. One commonality I have found is that the conversation is either prefaced by or includes the some variation of the phrase “of course, this is nothing compared to what you’re going through…”

I shrug that off. That is the essence of what they don’t get. My problems are my problems, their problems are theirs. It is not a matter of whose is bigger or worse, they are pressing on us and affect our ability to function and be happy. It’s not a contest. But interaction with each other, no matter how small, makes it better and also unburdens us. I truly believe this.

Obviously, at least it should be, we should be cognizant of the needs of our fellow man and help whenever possible. It is our duty as human beings. But a wonderful secondary effect of focusing on others is that it takes your mind off of your own issues, whatever they are.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that should scientists discover the center of the universe, I won’t be shocked to find that it’s not me. My happiness is in making my life not only about me, but of being a part of a bigger picture. Being surrounded by happy is my source of happiness. My sense of purpose. I couldn’t achieve that if I was to sit around thinking about how sick I am.

The universe, like most people, doesn’t give a shit.

Finish the story-the Travelers

I have been tagged by Lisa to finish the story. I like these challenges, they’re fun. In my case it is getting me out of a slump. I had a killer eye infection for the last week and my headache was so intense that blogging was not possible. So, thanks Lisa for getting me moving again. Please check out her blog as well as all of the other fine bloggers who collaborated on this project.

Rules

1. Copy the story as you receive it.

2. Add to the story in some fashion.

3. Tag another person to contribute to or finish the story.

4. Please use FTS as a tag so I can find it or link back to part 1.

5. Have Fun!

The Travelers – Teresa’s Introduction

Alexander and Alistair waited in line to check on their flight. It didn’t matter how long the line was, or how tired they were of waiting in it, they were happy to be getting away for a week. Life had not been difficult, but it was still nice to finally get away–alone.

Alexander couldn’t wait to show Alistair around Pompeii and Alistair couldn’t wait to show Alexander around his old home. They enjoyed people watching in the airport and passed time telling stories of the old days.

Finally, it was their turn to check in. Alexander sat his luggage in the bin and watched as a scrawny kid retrieved it and threw it on a conveyor belt. He cringed and crossed his fingers that his cologne didn’t break.

It wasn’t until they were standing by the large window at their gate watching their luggage be thrown around like last week’s trash that they noticed it. Something was not right.

“Hey, Alistair,” Alexander said, pointing out to the luggage cart. “Do you see that?”

Alistair followed Alexander’s finger and squinted. “Yeah. What is that?”

“I can’t be sure, but it looks like …

Part two – Paula of Light Motifs II

The luggage on one of the other carts was all black with a lightning bolt logo. And sure enough, a black stretch limo with the same logo pulled up directly to the plane and out tumbled the crazy rockers the Zappers and their entourage.

“Oh no,” Alistair moaned. “Those lunatics will be on our flight!”

Alexander sighed. “Horrible. They always get up to some ridiculous shenanigans, but surely they’ll behave themselves in the air?”

“It’s too late to change our tickets?”

“Well, yes. Our luggage is being flung into the bowels of this tin can as we speak.”

The men stared glumly out the window, their previous good mood soured. When they were called to board, they stood in line without speaking, having mutually decided to stoically bear the flight and have fun after landing, when the nutty rockers had gone.

Women chatted behind them in line. “Oh my God! Did you hear that the Zappers are on our flight? I’m totally gonna sneak into first class to see them!”

“I have such a crush on Nikki Zapper! I bet he does something wild and we have to make an emergency landing!”

Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

But all went smoothly during takeoff, and then as one of the flight attendants was giving the safety presentation, a blond man dressed in black leather popped out of the first class section, grabbed her, and kissed her.

Part Three Li at Tao-Talk

Several people in coach lifted up their cell phones to record Nikki as he laid one on Myra, the flight attendant, ooh-ing and aah-ing as they did. Myra was torn, as she was supposed to rebuff any advances by the passengers, no matter how famous; but on the other hand, she had been a global fan of Nikki and the Zappers for years, using her bene of free flights to see them dozens of times. She even had a likeness of Nikki tattooed in her cleavage. Throwing caution to the wind, she kissed Nikki back and soon they, locked in an embrace, were stumbling towards the bathroom – where they would be the newest members of the Mile High Club.

As they often synched with each other over the years, Alistair and Alexander looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

“Well, I never!” huffed Alistair.

“Indeed!,” puffed Alexander.

“Let the shenanigans begin. Where are those sleepers you packed? Time to take a snooze until the show is over,” said Alistair.

Alexander reached for his carry-on, which was stuffed under his seat, and retrieved enough for both of them. They asked another attendant for a handful of the little booze bottles to wash them down with. Soon they were fast asleep, snoring to beat kingdom come.

Neither one knew how long they had slept, but both were awakened by the throbbing bassline of the latest Nikki and the Zappers tune, “Don’t Harsh My Buzz.” They were shocked to see….

Part Four Teleporting Weena;

…that the lights in the plane’s cabin had been turned off. Being that it was night time, they couldn’t see a thing in the dark. The bass guitar was still pounding out the beat so loud it shook their insides.

Suddenly an explosion of neon-like lights began flickering all around the plane’s interior, as the Zappers launched into their current number one song.  Passengers were crowding into the narrow aisle, and even just standing at their seats, dancing and singing along to the music.

The captain came on the loudspeakers: “Welcome to the party of the year…we present the Zappers for your inflight entertainment. Free drinks for everyone!

A big cheer rocked this unusual concert venue.

“Can you believe this?” Alistair asked as he busted a move right there in his seat.

Alexander looked at Alistair. They were grinning from ear to ear but didn’t roll their eyes at this exciting turn of events.

Cocktails and cups of beer were passed around, as the party continued through the night, 32,000 feet above the ground, but a sudden lurch of the plane made everyone gasp. The plane yawed to the left, then to the right. People screamed and tumbled into each other.

This is your captain…please everyone…sit down and fasten your seat belts…

***

Part Five – Sadje of Keep it Alive

……..we have a pick of air turbulence. It took repeated announcements from the caption to quieten down the passengers who were still hyped up from all the drinking and dancing. Eventually, everyone was seated, the belts fastened and a hush descended on the plane. Suddenly there was a jerk as the plane lost a lot of height very quickly. It was an air pocket that caused the loss in the plane altitude. There were quite a few screams and shrieks from many people.

The pilot came on air again.

I am sorry ladies and gentlemen we are in the middle of a storm right now. Please keep the seat belts on. I am afraid that we have lost power in one of our engines. I am trying to make an emergency landing………..

His announcement was cut abruptly and….

Part Six – Kristian’s Addition

…the oxygen masks dropped from their concealed compartments above the passengers.

Alistair and Alexander helped each other putting them on and then they squeezed hands.

The atmosphere had gone from one of enjoyment to panic. A few people had begun to get hysterical. Myra the Stewardess was trying to comfort one particularly distressed woman who couldn’t stop crying.

Then there was a loud bang and a hiss as the cabin filled with smoke. Alistair could just see Alexanders face through the haze. His eyes were scrunched tightly together and his grip on his hand was threatening to cut the blood supply from his fingers, but they were together and that was some comfort.

It was the impact of the plane hitting the water that sent luggage pouring out of overhead compartments and a few chairs broke loose, tumbling bodies around like they were dummies.

Myra lay at an impossible angle. Her legs bent backwards and her head twisted.

A figure lay face down in a black leather jacket and the strings of a broken guitar wrapped around his neck.

After the terrific noise of the impact, everything seemed deathly quiet. Alexander’s eyes opened, tears streaming down his face but he fixed Alistair with a desperate blue stare.

They had survived the crash but so many hadn’t.

A panicked voice suddenly came from over the tannoy system.

“This is the Navigator speaking. If there are any other survivors, please come to the front of the plane and make yourselves known.”

Together Alistair and Alexander got up from their chair and slowly made their way down the plane.

They were surprised to see…..

Part 7 – A Guy Called Bloke

cockpit-683529_960_720

………. that the cockpit was empty!

The navigator stood there, in a right mess, another steward was desperately trying to stem the blood flow from his left arm, well what was left of his left arm anyway! They could see by looking into the cockpit was not a good move – the Captain and the Co-pilot were missing. The navigator was mumbling about the fact that the two pilots had suddenly just disappeared into thin air and then all hell broke loose! That the aircraft lurched and then plummetted to the earth.

Alastair and Alex looked at each other in complete disbelief and utter astonishment. Behind them the screams of agony and anguish were filling the small space of the aisle .. and yet when they looked behind them, something was amiss, not quite right, it took them a few moments to comprehend that the loss was actually people. Before the crash, all the seats had been filled with passengers and yet now, if you included the dead, the dying, the subdued expressions of those in shock and the few others still, looking bewildered at them, they came to realise that, a good 50% of their part of the cabin was emptier than it had been?

“Well where, did they go?” Alex said to himself almost as much to the others?

“Which is what l have been trying to say!” mumbled the Navigator, “poof gone! Where who knows, Frank and Thomas were laughing and joking one minute and then l was disentangling myself from metal! Which is why my arm is not right. We didn’t hit the sea, we are not sinking which is good news. From what l could gather as l looked out of the windows as we were skewing across the surface, if anything we were skimming across a swamp!”

“Right!” Al said, “I think we should start to disembark, does this plane have one of those things that are like a Bouncy castle slide?”

“Yes of course.” Answered the Navigator, and with a small cursory move to the steward, he motioned towards the door. The steward after a bit of rough manoeuvring, managed to cast the door open and then aside and for the first time the four of them looked out into the world before them.

An overgrown jungled swampland greeted them, very mangrove looking Alex thought and said as much “Charming, just what we need a bloody jungle!”

“Right, well you must have a passenger list. I suggest we get everyone off the plane as best as we can, there must be other stewards throughout the aircraft? There must be first aid and medical equipment. We need to check the state of the craft itself to see if we are in any immediate danger of blowing up, and then , well then we will have to figure out where the bloody hell we are and what we do?” Alastair said officially.

Alex looked at his friend in confusion, “How do you know all of this?”

“Well l was huge fan of the disaster movies from the 70’s, l am just repeating what they said and it’s common sense surely?”

“Right, well l am very impressed Al, must be said”

“Thanks Alex, however now is not the time for praise, now is the time for action.”

At that moment in time, as the four looked out into the darkness of the surroundings they were now in, they heard something very heavy crashing through the undergrowth! If that wasn’t disturbing enough, the screech was!

“Oh my lord, what the hell is that?” The Navigator moaned.

Before any of them could answer, the undergrowth parted and crashing out towards them was ……..

And here’s my contribution:

an enormous metal beast; it had wheels at the rear but at the front were giant clawed arms which served to change the direction of the machine but also to clear the dense forestation. It halted before the terrified survivors, the massive throbbing engines creating an illusion of life; a black heart of block and pistons beating. In their bewildered state the passengers didn’t see an internal hatch opening, they saw a giant gaping maw that they were certain was going to swallow them whole.

The screaming began and quickly turned to mass hysteria as people fought each other in an effort to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the machine that had so terrified them. Alistair and Alex clung to each other; they too were afraid but their desire not to be separated in this awful moment overrode their natural flight response. Their breath came in short, sharp gasps and Alex could feel Alistair’s knees start to give way.

“Alistair!” he hissed “Come on, you can’t collapse on me now”

Alistair shook his head and tried to lock his knees, he couldn’t let Alex down, but he could still feel the violent trembling that coursed through his body; he clung tighter still and hid his face in Alex’s jacket. Alex’s eyes, meanwhile, were fixed on the hatch in the machine, it was now fully open and someone, or something, was emerging from it. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up and he was aware of being exposed; a quick glance around him confirmed that all the other passengers had fled into the forest. He and Alistair would, it seemed, face this thing alone.

“What do you want?” Even to his own ears, his voice was unsteady.  At the sound of his voice, Alistair turned his face away from Alex’s shoulder and looked at the emerging figure. He fought to maintain control of his bowels as it climbed down from the machine and slowly walked towards them; the last thing he heard before his terror overwhelmed him was the voice of the creature saying……………………………………

my contribution.

“Identify, immediately!” a voice boomed.

A blinding spotlight was suddenly trained on them. Unable to see and afraid to move, Alex and Alistair stood frozen, as if chained to the damp forest floor. The two men exchanged furtive glances and Alex nodded slightly to Alistair that he would answer. He put on a brave face, took a deep breath and said, “I am Alex. And this…”he motioned to his right, “is Alistair.”

“I am not interested in what you are called!” The voice was louder. Closer. “I am asking you what is your species!”

“What?” Alistair stammered. “What the hell is this?”

“Shut up, Alistair,”Alex said. “Let me answer.”

“We are…”, he paused as if he was unsure of his answer, “Human beings”.

Suddenly, the blinding light vanished. They struggled to focus as their eyes began to recover.

The figure was standing before them, a mere 5 feet away. The approach seemed implausible because they had heard no footsteps or any sounds that would betray movement of such a large body. It towered over them at a height of at least 8 feet. Glowing, reptilian eyes pierced the darkness, revealing a enormous, bulbous head perched upon a thin but sturdy frame, supported by strong haunches not unlike a T-Rex. Short but strong arms extended towards them as if to strike anytime. It appeared to be hovering an inch above the damp, mossy floor of the forest.

The two men were paralyzed with fear.

“Human beings”, the figure replied, the voice calm, even, but not at all reassuring to the terrified men. “What makes you think you are welcome here?”

Alex and Alistair turned to stare at each other, certain that their answer had better be a good one. Alex again took the reins.
“We didn’t have a choice. We landed here by accident.”

“Yes. We see that example of primitive technology lying in ruins.”

“Primitive technology?” Alistair blurted out. “That’s a state of the art airplane.”

Alex gave him a shot to the ribs as a reprimand and gave him a look that clearly said shut up.

“Human, to you it may be, as you say ‘state of the art’, but it is most primitive in comparison to our advanced technology.”

Alex, garnering courage asked, “You say ‘ours’. Who, if I may ask are you?”

“We are the rightful owners of this planet. We have been away.”

“How long ?”, asked Alex

“That is not important. What is important is why we are here. We are at the beginning of a rejuvenation process, one that wouldn’t be necessary without you ‘humans’. This was once a fertile, bright planet. Then, you ‘humans’ destroyed it. Over population, pollutants and the weapons used to fight useless wars, all because you can’t get along, have nearly destroyed it.”

The figure moved closer, the glow of its eyes intensified.

“You can’t be trusted to be on this land. It is the last refuge from your infestation.”

The two men backed away a few steps, cowering from the intimidating figure.

“Again”, Alex stammered, “It’s not like we had a choice. We crashed here by accident!”

Alistair, feeling brave, chimed in. “If you tell us where we are, we can try to use the radio on the plane. You know, to call for help. We’ll be out of here and you won’t see us again.”

The figure silently advanced towards them and stopped mere inches from the men, towering over them and said in a flat, mocking tone.

“It’s not a matter of where you are human, it is a matter of when you are…”

I pass the baton to my buddy Steve. The last time I did, he did not disappoint. Have at it, bud.

Humility

Some would be scantily clad if only clothed in humility.”
Author unknown.

Inspiration indeed comes from many places. The above quote was displayed on the local church billboard. It’s not original, but it’s great.

Humility is a virtue. It is a value. It is a moral construct. It is also woefully absent in today’s world.

Webster defines humility as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. How many people do you know that act in accordance with this?

It’s difficult today. We live in the “selfie” era. The age of “look at me”. Social media has created an atmosphere of constant exposure, of the creation of celebrity, which is merely the status of being famous for being famous. No merit requested or required. We measure our worth by the number of followers we have, many of them not unlike WordPress.com followers…I follow you in hopes that you will follow me.

Sigh…

I find myself wanting to reach out to some people and tell them to “get over themselves”. Explain to them that I know who they are, what I want to know is what do they do? Do you contribute to society at large or do you use society to contribute to you? The least accomplished generation is also the most documented.

I am a firm believer that our deeds define us. I believe in Service. I believe that we are, in large part, here for the benefit of each other. Sure, some cynic will ask, “if we’re here for others than what are others here for”. That is when I am forced to amend it and say, “we are here for each other.”

I used to be an enormous follower of Ayn Rand. Her philosophy of Objectivism appealed to my conservative sensibilities. She taught that man is innately a creature of reason, craving accomplishment and achievement. She consequently dismissed the less accomplished in our world as victims of their own choices and should be left to pull themselves up and only then will they be worthy. I broke with her on this. By that logic, screw the addict, screw the homeless and screw anyone else who made a mistake in life. She called for the embracing of selfishness. While I do understand what she meant, that we owe it to ourselves to chase our own happiness, she neglected to touch on the value-added proposition of the achievement felt when helping someone. Most especially those that have nothing to offer you in return. I have experienced this and it is an achievement indeed. It made me a better person.

Today, people will step over a bleeding body in the street. They will film a person getting beaten and bullied and not attempt to help. The “hits” on the YouTube video matter more than helping another human being. They will blame the media, the video game, the music of the era but will never acknowledge that they only care about something in relation to how it affects them. They would be naked and cold if only clad in their humility.

Chase your goals. Work towards your dream. Achieve and accomplish. But remember that as you climb the ladder it is important that you remember not to kick on the way up what you may have to kiss on the way down. People are not stepping stones, they are our fellow residents on this earth. Our deeds are forever, and they are how we are remembered. The best deeds are anonymous ones, they are the embodiment of charity. It doesn’t matter how many people know what it is that you did…you’ll know. If someone finds out, be humble. Think less about yourself and more for others.

Think of your upcoming funeral. Will someone say, in hushed tones, “I can’t believe there are so few people here, she had a huge Instagram following and thousands of FB friends.”

Stay humble and fully clothed my friends, it’s worth it in the end.


Don’t let him win

A team of doctors frantically work to save the life of the patient on the table. One of the doctors yells “Don’t let the bastard win!”
Later, an observer to the scene leaned in to a doctor and asked “What did he mean, ‘Don’t let the bastard win?’ Who was he talking about?”
The doctor calmly replied, “Death. The bastard is Death.”

This was a scene from MASH, one of my all time favorite shows. The doctor was none other than “Hawkeye” Pierce. The part of Death was played by, well, Death of course. A character that transcends a TV show, it is a very real thing.

And it is a Bastard.

I remember the first time I saw that episode, it resonated deeply with me. I caught it on re-runs the other night and it knocked me out of my chair. It spoke to me.

I have been a obstinate, stubborn, insanely driven lover of a good fight my entire life. The best way to get me to do something, my father always joked, was to tell me that I couldn’t do it. Through the years I became known for it, and as my health deteriorated, it became my calling card. When I met a challenge, I overcame it. I found that it inspired people, and that was a role that I could live with.

Now, I don’t have a lot of challenges or enemies. Not much is staring me in the face. With the possible exception of my mortality. It’s taunting me, telling me to lie down and accept its inevitability. To just go with it. After all, it says teasingly, it’s only a matter of time after all.

Fuck you, you bastard. I’m not listening.

I see people every day that have given up. They are just going through the motions, waiting for death. Not me, man. I’m scouring for donors, I’m exercising, I’m being positive because it’s only one of the two choices I have.

So many days I have felt tired and weak. So many days I have sat on the sofa unable to do anything. So many nights I have laid in my bed, sleepless and exhausted counting reasons to go on vs giving up. The term “quality of life” bounces around in your head during those moments. When you don’t feel well, life can not feel like it’s worth living. You can even begin to welcome the sweet release of death.

I’ve been close to death 3 times in my life. I’m not scared of it. I’m also not ready for it. I have a lot of people in my corner who want me around. So it’s up to me to get myself in a place in which I want to be around.

Today, I started week 3 of my workout routine. Treadmill, kettlebells, pushups and resistance bands. My strength is pathetic, my stamina is woeful and my body begs me to stop. I pushed through and now I feel like I have accomplished something. I did more than I was able to on week 1. That is forward progress.

If death is coming for me, he needs to know that it won’t be without a fight. I’m not letting the bastard win.

people watching

Hey there, I see you. Don’t think strangely of me if we make eye contact. Yes, I know it’s Saturday night and I am indeed in a booth alone. I’m not staring at you, I promise. I’m just people watching. It’s what I do. For a brief moment in time, you won’t even notice, I will simply absorb, perhaps steal a tiny portion of this moment from you. If you let me do my thing, I will move on to someone else in their room and I will steal moments from them.

It’s just one dinner, one cocktail or appetizer on one day of your life. It’s just one moment. But to me it’s more, I’m incredibly invested in it. You may not think of it as I do, but once this moment is gone all you will have is a memory. You may underestimate how precious that memory will be, but I don’t. See, I am not old enough to say that I will never be happy again, but I know that I am old enough that certain moments are forever past, others beyond my reach.  Vicariously is the only way I will experience them again.

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I see you, sir. The young guy with the pretty wife and 2 young children. You are having dinner. Your daughter is trying to get your attention for approval on the puzzle she just completed on her placemat. You’re on your phone. I would trade a thousand tomorrows to have one like you are having. Moments when I was a giant to them and my approval was everything. What you don’t know is a lot of the time I also was too wrapped up in what I was doing to pay attention to them. I want them back, all of them. Please, put the phone down. The text can wait. That disappointed look on her face…you can change that. If you don’t appreciate this moment, may I?

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I turn my attention to the young couple in the corner booth, barely able to keep their hands off of each other. Don’t mind me for staring, I’m not a creep I swear. It’s just that I can’t get over the way you are looking at each other. As if one would simply melt if the other left the table. It must be wonderful to be in love…would you tell me about it? You see, I don’t think that I have ever looked into someone’s eyes as you two are now. I want to but I doubt it now. I think we skipped that part and went right to bitterness and resentment. If it pleases you, could you do better than we did? Regardless, can I just enjoy yours for a while?

I catch the eye of Mr. Successful businessman at the bar. We nod and we then both look away. I see your $1000.00 suit, your Presidential Rolex and the drink that was poured from the top shelf. You clearly are doing great for yourself. Perhaps you are celebrating a promotion, a big close or merger. To your credit, you look like a guy with it all together. I’m happy for you. I struggled with money and success for my whole career. When I finally got close to wearing a smile like yours, I had to stop working. I hope you have something else in your life that makes you happy besides money. She’s a cruel mistress. But still, cheers. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.

I take a sip of my drink and I zoom in on the happy couple at the other end of the bar. Older, smiling, looking at each other fondly as they speak. You are a couple that has been together for a long time. Your love has stood the test of time. Maybe you had it easy, but maybe you struggled with the marriage-crushing burdens of children, finances and work. If you did or didn’t you look like you made it through. I always wanted a love like yours. I hoped to someday say, in a crowded banquet hall, the words “I have been married to this beautiful woman, my best friend for 50 years” and soak in the applause.  It just didn’t work out that way. I am about to be, on Monday, the first member of my family ever to get divorced. It’s too late for me, but I’m really happy for you. If you look my way I’m not staring, I’m simply thinking about my three favorite things…

Could’ve
Should’ve
Would’ve

Who am I you ask? What am I doing here? I’m harmless I swear. You see, I am the petty thief of your moments. My satchel is full for now and I must go home.

Something big between my legs…conclusion

When I left off, I was lying in the woods, behind a rusty guardrail on a sparsely traveled road. Unconscious. If you would like to catch up you can here.

“Bill… can you hear me?” a strange voice boomed over me. It was noisy and chaotic, I was freezing and disoriented. The surface I was lying on was incredibly uncomfortable and I attempted to shift my weight. A tsunami of pain washed over me and I cried out. Several sets of hands suddenly were on me forcing me to sit still. Again, the booming voice called out to me. I opened my eyes to see 8-10 faces, all staring at me with anticipation.

“Where am I? ” It was then that I realized that I was wearing an oxygen mask. I tried to reach to take it off when I realized that my arms were strapped to my sides.

“Bill please don’t try to move. You’ve sustained a serious back injury and you are in a prone position until we can determine the severity.”

I think I next asked about my bike. He dodged the question.

med students

A nurse burst into the room. We’ve got his dad on the phone, he says the patient has kidney disease. I heard a quick exchange between them and before I knew it my shorts were at my ankles and I was being catheterized. I have two powerful memories of that moment. The pain of a plastic tube going the wrong way up an exit brought me to full consciousness right away and I realized that I was in the presence of about 10 medical students.

Embarrassing. My second regret is that I didn’t have the mental acuity to make a good joke such as “aren’t you going to buy me dinner first?” I don’t remember much after that. I either blacked out again, was anesthetized or I fell asleep. My next memory is of being in a stuffy hospital room in traction.

My parents were my first visitors. I managed to find the strength to thank my father for the heads up that led to me being “pantsed” in front of a team of medical students. We laughed a little about that one but laughing and fractured vertebrae equaled agony so we kept the joking to a minimum. Soon after, a wave of my friends arrived with thoughtful gifts such as books and dirty magazines. Their visits were helpful but I was in a funk. Then, on the afternoon of my second day, a cute little blond poked her head in my room. It was Cheryl. She had called my house and my father had told her what had happened.

She came into the room with the facial expression of a woman delivering a cancer diagnosis. Despite her dour demeanor, I lit up. I was so happy to see her. She proceeded to profusely apologize for what happened. I assured her that it was in no way her fault, hell I would do it again. As her visit would reveal that would not be necessary. She told me that we can’t see each other anymore because she wanted to “make it work” with her boyfriend. That was exactly the dick-slap I needed at that time. Of course, I didn’t know that the next day I would get another one. I received a call from my employer. Because I had not shown up for work without a call I was terminated. That was the good news. I also learned that the bargain-basement health plan that my company provided did not cover an accident that wasn’t work-related. Believe it or not, health care has improved dramatically. This was a deplorable policy that is now illegal. I would accrue over $27,000 in medical bills from the accident.

I spent 2 1/2 weeks in that hospital. I had a collapsed lung, 4 fractured vertebrae, 3 broken ribs, a broken wrist, a concussion and “road rash” on 70% of my body. A muscle shirt, jean shorts, and sneakers may have been a great choice for fucking in a van, but it was a poor choice to ride in that day. They were picking rocks and pebbles out of my ass for a week. I was in traction for 8 days and the pain was excruciating. As I laid there high on pain-killers, watching TV and wishing I was anywhere else I attempted to piece together the moments after I blacked out. I had so many questions.

I cringed at the memory of the moment when I gasped for air and failed. I really thought I was going to die. Why didn’t I? I asked my Dr. and he explained the medical phenomenon of your body going into “shock”. Incredibly, my body sensed that I was losing control and it “took over” my panic and shut me down. It enabled me to breathe and consequently survive until I was found.

I wanted to know who found me. Remember, this is before cell phones. Was it a good Samaritan driving by that saw my bike and found a nearby house to call 911? I don’t remember a house in the area that I went down. In addition, how long was I lying in a ditch before they saw me and how much time elapsed before the ambulance arrived? I had no memory of the ambulance ride. It was a blank. I still don’t know nor will I ever.

The last question that nagged me, and does to this day was who was the asshole that hit me and why did he leave me there? He had to have seen the crash. To my knowledge, no arrest was ever made. I still harbor an unhealthy bitterness towards that sonofabitch.

I would wear a back brace for 6 months after the accident. I was out of work for a year.  I had to deal with many issues during recovery including lower back issues resulting from compensating my posture to ease the pain. I still struggle with it to this day but I don’t dwell on it because my ever walking again was once in question.

I still love motorcycles. I will ride one again. The only reason I don’t have one now is money. I also believe in helmet laws. My father recovered my helmet, it was cracked in half. Despite all of it, when I can afford it I will again enjoy the sensation of driving that only an iron steed can provide. Amazingly, the memories of my riding days are still fun ones. Sun on my skin, wind in my face and bugs in my teeth. Cheryl on the back with her tiny arms wrapped around, sexy-talking me while holding me tight, damn I will never forget my times with her. Whenever I see a bike, which if you recall is what started this story, I smile.

As I do when I see a Nurse’s uniform. Did I mention that I began dating one of the medical students immediately after the crash? She slipped me her number as she wheeled me out of the hospital when I was released. I suppose she liked what she saw when I was “pantsed” and catheterized. She was fun.

But that, my friends. is a story for another day.

fini.